Could a a Chinese firm build bioweapons by purchasing a U.S. biotech firm?

Posted by scapozzola on 12/13/2012

The U.S. trade deficit with China reached $295 billion last year, and is poised to hit a new record in 2012.

So what does Beijing do as it steadily accumulates more dollars from this profitably lop-sided relationship?

Among other endeavors, it looks to purchase high-value American assets.  And, as Michael Wessel and Larry Wortzel relate in a new op-ed in the Silicon Valley Mercury News, one potential acquisition could be the U.S. biotechnology firm Complete Genomics, Inc.

Wessel and Wortzel are Congressionally-appointed members of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC).  In their editorial, they explain that China's effort to gain control of such a leading genome research firm could have potential national security implications since Complete Genomics' research can be harnessed for bio-weapons development:

The transaction raises very serious national security issues as well. Targeted genomic weapons are still somewhat hypothetical. But advances in genome and synthetic biotechnology could allow for bioweapons to be targeted at specific populations, groups or, indeed, individuals. 

Wessel and Wortzel urge serious caution as Beijing looks to acquire more U.S. firms, and hope that the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) will "review this proposed purchase with the strictest scrutiny":

As the wave of Chinese investment begins, we must not ignore the risks. Scrutinizing Chinese investments — especially those involving next-generation technologies and capabilities — is just plain common sense. This sale may not be an innocuous investment in science.

Read the full op-ed.



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